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Within a fast paced and demanding society like ours, anxiety is something that most of us will feel from time to time. Anxiety is a feeling that tells the body that it is under stress or a potential threat. Whenever the body feels that it is under a threat—whether it is a physical (being chased by a lion) or mental/emotional (a work deadline or worry)--the sympathetic nervous system kicks in. The sympathetic or “fight or flight” nervous system (SNS)is one of 2 parts of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) which regulates everything automatically in our body. The other part is the parasympathetic or “relaxation, rejuvenation, and digestion” nervous system (PNS). Anxiety will initiate sympathetic response thus it speeds up heart rate, increases blood pressure, causes shallow and/or rapid breathing, and produces stress chemicals such as adrenaline. Once the threat or stress is over, the parasympathetic nervous system takes over and helps to reestablish a more relaxed state so the body can recoup.

Varying Degrees of Anxiety
There are varying degrees of anxiety from occasional day to day anxiety all the way to panic attacks and phobias. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that approximately 40 million American adults ages 18 and older, have an anxiety disorder. For those that experience more chronic or severe anxiety the symptoms can become heightened and/or take longer to get back to “normal”. Our body & mind have an incredible way of learning through repetition. For example, a pitcher can condition and practice until she has the perfect pitch in which her whole body automatically knows what to do. Another example would be repeating the multiplication table until it can be automatically recited. In a similar way we can condition the body & mind to experience anxiety or any other feeling through repetition—until it becomes more automatic. Therefore, if the body, mind and energy can “learn” anxiety then it can also learn relaxation, happiness and joy!

Acupuncture for Anxiety
Acupuncture is a powerful healing modality that can provide much benefit to anxiety and the multitude of symptoms created by chronic anxiety. Acupuncture works to balance and increase harmony of mind, body and energy creating relaxation for the body, balancing hormones such as adrenaline & brain chemicals, and helping to restore optimal function of the organs and muscles. There are 12 main and 8 extra lines of energy called meridians that run longitudinally in our body and at least 365 acupuncture points.

What to Expect
During a session, you are usually lying either face down or on your back depending on the points being balanced for about 15-20 minutes during which time you focus on rhythmic abdominal breathing. Acupuncture needles are very thin, only used once and generally painless. You may feel some sensations such as warmth, “buzzing”, or “pulling” at times depending on the chi or energy flow.

Other Tips for Anxiety
--Abdominal or belly breathing is crucial for relaxation. Inhaling slowly through the nose and filling the abdomen so that it extends out with the breath is an abdominal breath. This breathing initiates parasympathetic nervous system which causes our body to start relaxing.

--Break up anxious thoughts with affirmations such as “I relax, I do my best and I see the beauty in my life.” Start shifting your focus to a positive thought whenever possible. Positive thoughts such as gratitude release relaxing chemicals in your body such as endorphins.

Kessler RC, Chiu WT, Demler O, Walters EE. Prevalence, severity, and comorbidity of twelve-month DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R). Archives of General Psychiatry, 2005 Jun;62(6):617-27.

Biology of Depression - Neuroplasticity and Endocrinology by Rashmi Nemade, Ph.D., Natalie Staats Reiss, Ph.D., and Mark Dombeck, Ph.D;

Anxiety Panic Internet Resource--

Health Hint: Breathing Exercises--
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